On Fighting Inequality, Which Nations Do More Than Pay Lip Service?

Two years ago, in 2015, just about all the nations in the world came together and agreed to make reducing inequality — the gap between rich and poor — a prime United Nations “sustainable development goal.”

A noble gesture. But UN groups make noble gestures all the time. These gestures do sometimes translate into real progress. They more typically amount to blowing smoke — and obscuring how little progress governments may actually be making.

How can we tell which nations are just blowing that smoke? People worldwide clearly need a yardstick that identifies those nations, a global measure that can help average citizens hold their governments accountable to all their noble rhetoric. On inequality, we now have that measure.

Oxfam, the activist global charity, has just teamed with the Development Finance International consulting group to unveil the first-ever Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index, “a new global ranking of governments based on what they are doing to tackle the gap between rich and poor.”

We already know, researchers at Oxfam and DFI point out, what governments should be doing to reduce the gap between rich and poor. We have “widespread evidence” that “strong positive progressive actions by governments” in three particular spheres can narrow that gap.

The three spheres? Progress against inequality starts with significant social spending on education, health, and other public services. To fund these services — and keep power from concentrating — nations serious about reducing inequality also seriously tax their rich and the corporations they run.

Reducing inequality demands an equally significant commitment to ensuring that working people have enough bargaining power, in both the workplace and the political process, to demand and win decent wages and economic security.

The new Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index measures progress in these three spheres for the 152 nations of the world that have adequate data available. Those nations that have collected…

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